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Meet Lauren Regnier of Ditch the Recipe

Today we’d like to introduce you to Lauren Regnier.

Lauren, let’s start with your story. We’d love to hear how you got started and how the journey has been so far.
My passion for creative food definitely stemmed from my family. I grew up in a small town in Wisconsin on Lake Superior with my parents and two older siblings. As a child, you could find me running around barefoot with a rib in my hand, bbq sauce down my face, watching my dad stoke the fire in our backyard smoker.

I was always fascinated by his sense of ease when it came to food. He never needed to look at the recipe and no cuisine (or ingredient) was off limits. Because we lived in a small, suburban town in the middle of the country, there wasn’t much diversity in food options. If we wanted something besides your average meat and potatoes or burgers and cheese curds, we had to make it ourselves.

My dad was exposed to a lot of diverse cuisines as a child. My grandparents would exchange recipes with their family friends from various places like Italy and Latin America. I think it was important for him to give us (his kids) the same global experience he got through food. So, while most kids were eating chicken nuggets I was feasting on dishes like homemade pozole, stir fry, pasta I can’t pronounce, Vietnamese summer rolls, Black Forest venison stew, and giant muffaletta sandwiches. We didn’t eat dinner before 9 pm—in true European fashion—so I’d often fall asleep waiting for dinner. But the meal was always worth it. So worth it, I’d usually be up for seconds.

After graduating from college in 2013 with degrees in journalism and photography, I packed up my car and headed to Los Angeles. Without a plan or goal in mind, I decided to start a food blog to combine my passions for food, writing, and photography. I had been reluctant to start one because I’d never put my recipes on paper before. I adopted my dad’s style of cooking and I didn’t like to measure—a pinch of this and a splash of that were my go tos. Initially, I wasn’t even going to include measurements on the blog. I’m glad I rethought that one.

For the first year, I didn’t really know what I was doing, so I didn’t put much effort into it. I would just take whatever I was eating for breakfast or lunch, plop it on the counter in whatever lighting was available from the kitchen window, and snap a quick photo. I actually hid my blog from people I worked with in fear of being judged. It wasn’t until I went through a rough patch in my mid-twenties, that I really dove in and took it seriously. I started to research and see what other food bloggers were doing. I spent hours testing recipes, taking photos, and editing them. I even invested in online classes to hone my food styling and photography skills.

And people started to notice. I’ve been asked to submit monthly recipes to a company’s newsletter, create content for advertising agencies, assist with food styling projects, and even help develop recipes for the restaurant where I was working when I was afraid to share my work. Now you can get “Lauren’s avocado toast” on the menu any time of day at the Overland Cafe in Culver City. It’s a cool feeling.

Great, so let’s dig a little deeper into the story – has it been an easy path overall and if not, what were the challenges you’ve had to overcome?
Definitely not. I think with any creative endeavor, a bit of struggle comes with the territory. When I first started, the biggest challenge for me was navigating the technical housekeeping of a website. There is a lot that goes on behind-the-scenes—like SEO and email lists—that you don’t really think about until you actually start a blog. I think the most frustrating part was figuring out what I needed to know in order to get started. I just wanted to skip to the fun part where I made food and took photos and knew what I was doing.

Another struggle for me as a food blogger has been finances. I’m going to be honest, it gets expensive constantly buying ingredients to test and develop recipes. Not to mention the money that goes into backgrounds, props, and equipment. As a creator, you want to put out content consistently, and you want that content to be the best. So it can be frustrating when you feel limited by funds. But I’ve found the best way to overcome this, is to remind myself that I don’t need everything all at once. I don’t need every trendy backdrop I see someone else use or the best lens on the market. Instead, I try to focus on collecting one thing at a time. A unique spoon or a funky linen. It actually makes me appreciate the pieces more because I put some thought into choosing them.

Something I’m still dealing with is comparing myself to other creatives on social media. You know how it goes. You start thinking that your work isn’t good enough or you’re not posting enough, or your props are outdated. There is a fine line between comparison and inspiration and right now, I’m still navigating that. I don’t think struggles ever really stop, I think you just have to change your perspective and view them as learning experiences, instead.

Please tell us about Ditch the Recipe.
Ditch the Recipe is all about expanding your creativity and confidence in the kitchen. Going beyond the confines of a recipe to create something you truly enjoy, as the consumer. I want home cooks to take the reigns in the kitchen and alter recipes according to their preferences.

When creating a dish, I like to use a recipe for inspiration, then tweak it to make it my own. For example, if I want red velvet cake, I’m not just going to make red velvet cake. I’m going to make an orange scented red velvet cake with orange Dreamsicle icing because I’m partial to the chocolate-orange combo. My hope is to encourage my readers to practice this same creativity and authenticity in their own kitchen.

My food style and tastes are highly reflective of what came out of my kitchen growing up. As I mentioned earlier, we ate a variety of different cuisines in my household. On Ditch the Recipe you’ll find an eclectic mix of recipes, ranging from healthy and vegan-friendly to indulgent and carnivorous. You’ll find Mexican, Italian, Asian, and more. As well as breakfast, lunch, dinner, and dessert options. There truly is something for everyone. It’s funny when people ask me what kind of food I like to make, my answer is always, “everything.” Not because I know how to make everything, but because I’m open and eager to try anything.

When planning my recipes for the blog, I usually try to make something I’ve never made before. It seems counterintuitive since I may have to spend more time in the development process, but I like the challenge. I like proving to myself that I can make something new, while simultaneously tweaking it to make it my own. One thing all my recipes have in common is color. Food is like paint to me, I like to keep it fun and playful.

Do you look back particularly fondly on any memories from childhood?
We used to take family road trips when I was little, and my favorite trip was when our van broke down in the Smokey Mountains on our way to Florida. I was pretty young, maybe eight-years-old, and I know it was sort a serious, scary situation, but I remember having so much fun.

This nice old man, Danny, picked all five of us up in his tiny, two-seat pickup truck to bring us to the nearest town. I have no idea how we all fit in there, but I know I was piled on top of somebody (maybe the stick shift?) in the middle. On the way down the mountain, his clutch blew out. Instead of going into panic mode, Danny cracked a joke and we all laughed and felt extremely at ease despite the potentially dangerous, unfamiliar situation we were in. I love that.

Once the van got fixed, I’ll never forget when we stopped on the side of the road in Georgia for boiled peanuts. I had never heard of them before, so I was skeptical. They sounded soggy and tasteless to me. But as soon as I tried one, my world was rocked. They were definitely not soggy—they almost tasted like a cross between a nut and a bean. Ooh, we also tried some spicy ones! Those were my favorite. To this day, I’ve still never had a boiled peanut that good.

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